STUDY THE BIBLE FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS

STUDY THE BIBLE FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS

I grew up in a church environment where a “Plan of Salvation” was regularly presented. If you prayed the sinner’s prayer, it was generally understood that no matter what happened from there on out, you were saved and good to go.

Bibles were sometimes passed out with little instruction, as though the new believer could automatically make sense of this strange new world of Jewish and Christian history. In the best of environments, my teachers and church leaders cared deeply about and fostered a person’s subsequent growth as a follower of Jesus. But often the emphasis was on conversion instead of the conversations that led to being a life-long disciple of Christ.

This short post, however, is not about salvation per se as much as it’s about a lesson the apostle Philip taught me in Acts 8. A lesson about the richness of the gospel and the relational ways we can share it. And yes, this text includes salvation, but in broader terms then we typically think of.

PHILIP AND THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH

When Philip came upon an Ethiopian high official (Ethiopian eunuch), the Holy Spirit told Philip to go and join this man’s chariot. (The word join here means glue together, cling to, attach oneself.) In other words, it would simply not due for Philip to walk up to this stranger, present a set statement about Jesus, then drop a copy of the Scriptures off, all the while feeling good about having done his duty. (Interestingly enough, this man already had the Scriptures and was reading them!) Philip was to go connect with him and get inside his chariot. This instruction alone is a real paradigm shift when so often we expect the chariots to come to us.

When Philip overheard this high official reading the words of the prophet Isaiah, he asked a most engaging question: “Do you understand what you’re reading?” See, it wasn’t enough that the official was reading the Bible, it mattered that he understood it, and we’ll see in a moment why this is so important. The Ethiopian eunuch’s response was as straightforward as it was humble: “‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone guides me?’” We can miss the point of this question if we’re not careful: we need teachers to help us understand the Bible!

I stopped to think about all the awkward times I’ve tried to condense the good news about Jesus into a step-by-step presentation when the person I was speaking to had no context for what I was talking about.

Or the times I’ve handed someone a New Testament, hoping they would somehow “get it” on their own. While this most certainly happens, when we don’t take the time to teach the Bible to others we dilute the complexity, historicity, and beauty of its story, and our listeners miss significant facets of the good news about Jesus. The Ethiopian official needed a teacher, as do we. He needed someone to explain to him what Isaiah 53:7-8 meant. To relationally unfold it for him in a way that made sense.

We must be willing to step into some chariots and sit alongside people who can’t make sense of life, much less the Bible.Click To Tweet

One of the most moving parts of the scene is when this high official invited Philip to “come up” and “sit with him”. In this side-by-side setting, the Ethiopian eunuch was comfortable asking questions of Philip, and Philip was excited to respond. There was dialogue. Perhaps most significantly, Philip sat in the Ethiopian’s chariot, not the other way around.

Now here’s the part that I hope will shape my teaching for the rest of my life (and my learning from other teachers). “Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning with that Scripture.” (Acts 8:35, emphasis mine.) Can you imagine beginning in Isaiah to explain the good news about Jesus to someone? How about beginning in Genesis, 2 Samuel, or Jonah? The point here, of course, is not that we have to begin in a particular book, but that all of the Bible is important to the story of Jesus.

SHARING THE BIBLE WITH OTHERS

I want to be someone who is so fully acquainted with the Bible that I could start with any Scripture and teach someone all the way to Jesus. (I’m not that well acquainted yet, but my hope is to be more like Philip.)

So here are the two challenges this passage confronts us with: First, we must be willing to step into some chariots and sit alongside people who can’t make sense of life, much less the Bible (assuming we’ve been invited in). Second, we must be studying God’s Word diligently, learning from good teachers about His whole counsel, so that when we do have opportunities with those seeking to understand, we can engage them with the whole story instead of leaving them with a presentation.

It was essential that Philip understood Isaiah because it foretold good news about Jesus. Since we can only teach others what we’ve learned ourselves, consider studying a book of the Bible this summer. Yes, for your own sake, but also for the sake of someone who might just be looking for the good news.

This post originally appeared on lifewayvoices.com.

MOSES AND THE MUTUAL BENEFIT OF DELEGATING RESPONSIBILITY

MOSES AND THE MUTUAL BENEFIT OF DELEGATING RESPONSIBILITY

The concept of delegating isn’t a new one.

Anyone who’s been a leader in any capacity knows that at some point you have to let go of certain pieces of your work.

You realize that you can’t get to everything and you’re not good at everything. You see the idea of raising up new leaders and delegating to others as a strategy that will drastically help you. You realize that letting go and trusting others will relieve stress, keep you focused on all the things you’re especially good at, and more effectively grow whatever it is that you’re trying to grow. And all of this is true. It really will help you.

But it wasn’t until recently that I was reminded that delegating our work to others and raising up new leaders isn’t just about how it can help us. Sharing the workload and getting help isn’t merely about what it can do for you or me. It’s also about what it can do for others! I might have expected to read about the mutual benefits of delegating in a leadership or business book. Why was I not expecting to come across such a concept in the book of Exodus?

HOW MOSES DELEGATED

Moses was under a crippling weight when leading the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert. He was the sole judge of all their problems and disputes. When Moses’ father-in-law Jethro witnessed Moses handling the Israelites’ compounding issues from morning until evening he told him, “What you’re doing is not good. You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone.” (Exodus 18:17-19, emphasis added).

I always knew this scenario wasn’t good for Moses, but it never occurred to me how detrimental it was for the people he was leading. When we take on too much and try to control all the pieces, we not only wear ourselves out but also the people around us.

When we take on too much and try to control all the pieces, we not only wear ourselves out but also the people around us.Click To Tweet

I remember a few years ago sitting down with my pastor and asking for some advice. I was tired and stressed and had taken my work as far as I could go. He encouraged me to let go of certain areas of my ministry and trust others to carry those pieces out. I was desperate to do this because, frankly, I was concerned about how my lack of knowing how to delegate was affecting me. It hadn’t even occurred to me to think about the way it was affecting the people around me—those who worked for me, my closest friendships, my family relationships. (Why am I consistently late to the it’s-not-all-about-me party?)

DELEGATING ISN’T SELFISH

As I continued reading Exodus 18, I found Jethro’s offering of wisdom to Moses profound and enlightening. “If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home satisfied.” (Exodus 18:23) We see here that Moses delegating to others wasn’t just about Moses’ relief. The word satisfied that describes the people who were depending on him can also mean “go to their place in peace”. The more help Moses received, the more peaceful were the people he was leading.

As we think about loosening our grip on some of our work, sharing the load with others, and trusting people to handle the things we hold dear, it’s not just about the relief it will bring us. It’s about the peace it will bring the people we’re serving and the people we’re working with.

What an encouraging notion to think that when we delegate our work, our load will be lighter and the people we’re serving will be adequately taken care of, at peace, and satisfied. This is what I call a leadership win-win from the book of Exodus.

This post originally appeared on lifewayvioces.com


WHEN GOD’S BLESSING TAKES YOU ON A DIFFERENT PATH

WHEN GOD’S BLESSING TAKES YOU ON A DIFFERENT PATH

I remember right where I was in my house. I was listening to Beth Moore give a message out of Genesis 17 and if I’m not mistaken I was listening to her by tape (as in those small plastic rectangles that used to go in tape recorders). I was in my early twenties and also in the middle of one of those wrestling matches with God that most, if not all, believers have at varying points in their life of following Christ.

The details of these bouts with the Lord vary from person to person, but the premise is always the same: Our way versus God’s.

I was desperate to go in a direction that was comfortable for me; it was familiar, and, far more than any other path I knew, felt like life itself. The only trouble was that the path I wanted to go on wasn’t one of obedience, and I knew it. I was angry, conflicted, hurting. With my Bible opened to Genesis 17 I listened to Beth read from the scriptures about God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah, how in their old age they would have a son named Isaac. The text will be familiar to many of you, but maybe you’ve never seen it the way it met me that day.

“Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!’” (NIV, emphasis mine.) Other translations say, “be acceptable to you” or “live before you”, but the sentiment is the same. The favor of God and His covenant with Abraham would be confirmed through a child named Isaac born to Sarah, not Ishmael, the child born to Hagar.

At this point in the story Ishmael was the only son Abraham had, knew and loved. There was no Isaac. Because we have the benefit of knowing the rest of the story, we know the miracle of Isaac is coming, we know he’ll be the apple of Abraham’s eye, and we know the role he’ll play as one of the patriarchs of Israel. But in order to understand Abraham’s angst—oh, that Ishmael might live under your blessing!—we can’t read all that information back into this moment.

Setting that knowledge aside you can feel Abraham weighing his existing son Ishmael next to the yet-to-be, impossible son Isaac: Lord, you don’t have to go to all this trouble! I already have a son I love. He’s familiar to me. I know him. He’s in my home. Just bless him! Take your hand of blessing that’s on this idea of Sarah and I having a son in our old age, and simply shift it over to the path I’m already good with, the one I’ve created, the one I know. See how easy that is?

And there it was…I wanted God to bless my path instead of yielding myself to the one He’d already blessed. I wanted Him to bless what I knew, not bless what I didn’t. 

I wanted God to bless my path instead of yielding myself to the one He’d already blessed. I wanted Him to bless what I knew, not bless what I didn’t.Click To Tweet
I didn’t want to hear Him tell me “no” like he told Abraham, even though His staying words would eventually lead me to His gracious “yes”. But that day I knew I’d heard God’s voice. He was inviting me—and I do mean it was an invitation—to step out in faith, follow Him into unfamiliar places, and obey Him in ways that would require sacrifice.

Since then I’ve experienced unparalleled joys as well as sadness—this is how obedience looks for all of us.

But for all the world I wouldn’t change the decision I made that day to walk where His hand of blessing unmistakably rest. It’s a choice we make over and over, and it’s the difference between the natural and the supernatural. Abraham learned what I pray we all will: Nothing we’re holding onto with human hands will ever compare to what God will place in our empty ones. We must simply trust Him.

 

This blog post originally appeared at lifewayvoices.com

How to Be a “Doer” This Fall

How to Be a “Doer” This Fall

Routine will be making a comeback soon, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a “doer.”

School has already started here in Nashville. This totally gives me agita, and I’m not even in school anymore, nor do I have kids in school. Just talking to my niece and nephew about starting first and second grade gave me butterflies about the cafeteria lunches, homework, oral recitations, and making new friends. They’re doing great; I’m the one with all the anxieties. I think this is partly because Back to School signals Back to Work for a lot of adult things, too. Even though most of us work through the summer (in or out of the home), when September is in view we know that things are about to get serious again.

Getting back into the swing of things has been an even harder prospect for me than normal because I’ve had one of the most restful summers I can remember. I hate to see it come to an end. It was the first time in probably 10 years where I’ve been at home for a stretch of three months. It’s been perfectly glorious.

Besides the gifts of being able to sleep in when I’ve needed it, linger in my flower garden, cook a dish I wouldn’t normally have time for, or spend some extra time with family and friends, I’ve had unhurried times in the Word. Those times where you’re not rushing out the door but can spend a few minutes chasing down a word in Scripture, or checking a commentary, maybe listening to a sermon online that’s about the text you’re studying. This has been thoroughly rejuvenating for me, and something I’m not willing to wait another ten years for.

How do we “do?”

One of the passages I’ve been studying this summer is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. A statement that continually grabs me is the way He ends His message: “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (7:24). When so much in our world feels like sinking sand right now I’m very drawn to the imagery of a life that’s built on an unshakable foundation. Jesus reminded me that hearing His words and putting them into practice is what this rock is made of. Which is why committing to Bible study this fall is so important—but I’m getting ahead of myself.

A couple things struck me about Jesus’ statement.

First, the obvious: it’s not enough for us to simply hear the word of God—we have to act on what He teaches. I had some extra time this summer to process some of His teachings and really consider if they’re things I’m actually doing.

It’s not enough for us to simply hear the word of God—we have to act on what He teaches.Click To Tweet

For instance, Jesus tells us not to be anxious about tomorrow. (I know I’m probably the only person who worries so feel free to skip this section). Most of us know that we’re to trust God with our lives and not worry. But I had to ask myself in what areas was I making a conscious decision to cast my cares on the Lord, believing that He cares for me and that He can be trusted? Was I actually practicing not worrying? Jesus also talks quite a bit about prayer in this section, explaining to His disciples how to pray and how not to pray. This was a summer where I decided to pray more intentionally for several reasons—many of them pressing. But one of the reasons was the simple fact that I want to do more of what Jesus said to do, and praying is one of them.

Or what about the sections where Jesus talks about forgiveness, dealing with the impure thoughts we think, making sure anger isn’t harboring in our hearts toward anyone, speaking yes’s and no’s that can be trusted? Many of us know these teachings of Jesus, but the question is, are we specifically putting them into practice in our day-to-day lives? Because it’s in our actual lives where His teachings and practices are meant to work. Jesus is terribly practical!

Many of us know the teachings of Jesus, but the question is, are we specifically putting them into practice in our day-to-day lives?Click To Tweet

How do we “hear?”

Another part of this phrase struck me as well: How can we act on Jesus’ words if we don’t know them? True, many know them and don’t act, but how many in our current culture aren’t acting on His words because they simply haven’t been exposed to them? Because they don’t know what His Word says?

How many in our current culture aren’t acting on Jesus' words because they simply haven’t been exposed to them? Click To Tweet

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to teach at a girls’ Bible study made up of brand-new believers, several who are seeking Jesus but aren’t sure if they’re “in” yet, and a handful of seasoned Christ-followers. It’s a positively invigorating crew. Sitting in the midst of this group freshly reminded me how much we need Bible study. If we’re going to do what Jesus says, we need to first know what He says. The questions the girls asked were so refreshing because many of them had come to the teachings of Jesus for the first time. They were newly thinking about what putting His words into practice might mean. For those who have known the Lord for a while, they were asking different question of themselves like, “Am I doing the things I know to do?”

I’ve been re-reading Dallas Willard’s book The Divine Conspiracy this summer. Dallas was so passionate about actually living what Jesus taught, and he wanted others to experience this joy. He asserted, “Jesus as the actual teacher of his people has disappeared from the mental horizon of our faith. In that capacity, he is not a part of how we ‘do’ our Christianity today.” I certainly don’t want this to be the case on our watches. As we come upon a new school year and things like routines and fall Bible studies kick back up, let’s commit to getting into the Word. Whether you’re a hearer but not a doer, or you’re not a doer because you haven’t been a hearer, Bible study is the place to be this fall. Because who couldn’t use a solid rock?

If you’re looking for a weekly study guide to use as you read the Bible, you can find a few of my Bible studies here and a few from my friends in the latest LifeWay Women catalog. It truly doesn’t matter which one you choose, as long as the bulk of your time is spent with Jesus in the scriptures.

When You Don’t Make the List

When You Don’t Make the List

When you don’t make the list—whatever “the list” is—it can be hard on your heart.

The bittersweet result of not being picked, while painful, can also reveal hidden pride or an oversight of contentment that comes from doing what the Lord has called you too.

The people of the Amazon always remind me of this—helping me find my way back to humility, peace and contentment.

I hope you enjoy this short excerpt from my book, Wherever the River Runs.

Feeling List-less

Not long after my return from the Amazon, once I’d settled back into the swing of this oh-so-normal American way of life, my friend Mary Katharine picked me up for Pilates. I climbed into the passenger’s seat, sliding a magazine out of the way that she’d brought home from work. When I went to toss it into the backseat, I noticed the front cover: a collage of the Top 50 Most Influential Christian Women in the country today. Intrigued, I glossed over the list and recognized a lot of familiar faces, none of whom were me. I found this so fascinating—you know, that they could get to fifty without me. Not that anyone ever thinks she will be chosen for something like this—or should be—it’s just an interesting feeling when so many women you know, who do things similar to you, are chosen. Before getting in the car, I didn’t even know the list existed, but I’d been made aware of its material presence in the universe, and now there was yet another guest list I hadn’t made, another ball where the slipper didn’t quite fit.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean for you to see that,” MK said, wincing. Well, I’d seen it, and I was pretty sure that she was responsible for whatever despairing, left-out feelings of hurt and jealousy that were now oozing out of me, as if seeing the magazine cover had created those sinking sensations as opposed to merely letting them loose. What was more maddening was that I couldn’t hate the list. It would have been so satisfying to find fault with this grouping of women, to be able to point out someone’s personality defects or wackadoo theology. (Because those feelings are Top-50-Christian-Women worthy.) But the truth was that these were beautiful, talented, dedicated, Christ-seeking women who were having incredible impact, which honest to goodness made the whole thing that much more insufferable. I mean, if I could find fault with everything I’m not chosen for, invited to, part of, included in, well, then I could dismiss everyone and their silly lists.

“You know what?” I said to Mary Katharine, “All I wanted to do was get in the car and go to Pilates, and now I am list-less.” I wondered if this was where we derived the term, from some Latin person who didn’t make a list and said, “After further thought, I’m feeling listless today.” Mary Katharine didn’t think so. I was getting the feeling that the problem wasn’t with the list but with me.

It’s strange how something as simple as a glance at a magazine can expose a host of other issues, like when you spill your coffee in your car and it seeps behind the dash, slips into the hundred pinholes of the speaker, soaks the floor mat, stains your sweater, and leaves a lingering smell that reminds you for weeks of the fateful moments the lid tore away from the cup. Suddenly, you have more problems than just having lost your coffee. I’ve had this happen so many times in my  life—when a single situation tips something over in me and out splash feelings of rejection, failure, insignificance, all running amok. It’s that moment when you think your heart is so blissfully pure and clean and content, and then, suddenly: the magazine. Or the blog comment, the Twitter feed, the email, the Facebook post, the Instagram of someone enjoying a superior life on the beach.

Where God’s Favor Rests

I suppose this is one of the reasons God comes down so hard on pride, why the Scriptures continually urge us to humble ourselves, to not let our right hand know what our left hand is doing, to take the lowly seat at the table. Pride is such an affront, not only to God’s glory, but also to the people around us. There’s just no way to effectively love and serve others while our gain and notoriety are in the forefront. I had to concede that neither my flesh nor my society treasured a humble heart for the prize it is: the place where God’s favor rests.

There’s just no way to effectively love and serve others while our gain and notoriety are in the forefront.Click To Tweet

The jungle pastors were helping to straighten me out in this area. Their lives were teaching me that what we do for the kingdom of God is not measured by the praise we obtain from men and women, but by the praise that comes from God. Not that praise from others is inherently wrong—it’s quite a nice thing, actually. It’s just not the highest thing. Which means that if we make the list or hit the salary goal, if we get to dance on the stage we always dreamed of, if our poem gets published and a bunch of people applaud, we can freely enjoy the praise—without making it our god. Without even making it our pet parakeet. This has kept me from begrudging others when I don’t make the list and humble when I do.

But this wisdom came later. On the way to Pilates I gave Mary Katharine an earful about what’s wrong with Western culture and how we shouldn’t be trying to measure people’s influence and how popularity doesn’t always mean effectiveness. I swung between that very holy perspective and another one of my favorites, an approach I learned from one of the world’s great philosophers from the Hundred Acre Wood, Eeyore. This is where I sigh a lot and rehearse all the times I’ve been left out of things, dating all the way back to senior prom—which it may be time to let go of. Mary Katharine is very measured in her responses to me in these moments, usually letting me vent and bluster a lot of nonsense and self-pity about how I’m never chosen for anything, before quietly saying something like “Now, you know that’s not true.” And then she usually pats me on the shoulder. April, on the other hand, commences her thoughtful rebuttals by simply going bonkers. “Oh, who cares? Are you really going to lose sleep over someone’s made-up list? You of all people know there are bigger things to worry about out there, like all the starving people in the world.” There’s something to be said for both approaches.

The Wisdom of Miriam

While the jungle pastors had been a significant blessing to me—helping me recognize priorities, reminding me of what truly matters in kingdom living, and basically melting my heart—I still longed for the example and advice of another woman. I needed a model of godliness that could help me in moments like my magazine-cover angst. In other words, I needed Miriam, a seventy-year-old missionary and Bible teacher from Manaus, as beautiful as she is humble.

I’ll never forget the night she and I reclined on the veranda of the conference center after most everyone had nestled in bed. It was one of the few windows I would have to ask her about her life, so she obliged my late-night request, which meant Francie also had to agree to stay up and translate. Meaty jungle bugs swarmed the spotlights above us while the occasional bat zigzagged its way through our conversation, the view of the river having dissolved into the thick Amazon blackness. All was calm as I sat across from this wise and gracious woman, though few outside Manaus would have known her name.

God’s Miracles in Miriam

She told me about the time she’d been diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer, and how she’d learned to thank God, even for a life-threatening disease. She explained how He miraculously healed her, though she never intimated her healing had anything to do with whatever faith or belief or thanksgiving she could muster on her end, simply that He’d chosen to give her more time to serve Him here. And for this she was grateful. She also told me about a harrowing accident that left her unable to walk for a time until an angel appeared to her, touched her back, and enabled her to walk again. I’d never had a miraculous experience like this, wasn’t even sure if I believed in them. Miriam wouldn’t have understood this—angels and healings are in the Bible, she’d say. Even so, it wasn’t the divine healings that so moved me as much as her humble, gentle spirit. She embodied that intangible essence that Peter described as being of unfading and great worth in the sight of God. It wasn’t the stuff of magazine covers, but it was what mattered to God. I found this to be about as rare as any angel sighting.

Near the end of the night Miriam lifted her finger in the air as if to make a particular point. “If every woman believed what God has in store for her, every woman would devote her life to the service of God.”

“If every woman believed what God has in store for her, every woman would devote her life to the service of God.”Click To Tweet

And this is precisely where I’d gotten off track. It wasn’t just about pride or wanting to be noticed; it was also about unbelief. There was still part of me that didn’t believe that God as my portion was more than enough, that He really does satisfy, and that He’s set me apart for a specific purpose. If I could more fully embrace these truths, I would be free to prize Him above all else and, as Miriam put it, devote my life more fully to Him.

Finding Love in Him

I’ll never forget that night with Miriam under the stars. She was a woman who had found her life’s purpose in Jesus, because she had found her love in Him. We eventually said good night, and I crawled into a modest twin bed, pulling the thin white sheet over my body. I didn’t need the sheet for warmth, that was for sure, but I found it comforting to be lined in cotton, to have something that felt familiar to me in the jungle. I drifted off to sleep pondering Miriam, this rare saint whose silvery shoulder-length hair had shimmered in the moonlight, belying her age and embellishing her charm, each strand a testament to a life faithfully lived. I wasn’t sure what list she was on, but I remember thinking how wonderful it would be if someone could finagle me onto it.

To read more from Wherever the River Runs, order the book from Kelly’s online store.

 

Where the River Runs

When God Doesn’t Open A Door

When God Doesn’t Open A Door

My church has been in a study on the book of Esther. Many truths have stood out to me, but one particular bend in Chapter 5 challenged me in a way that I couldn’t have expected. A little background on how I often decide where God is leading me: When stepping out in faith, or even beginning something new, I’m the person who’s looking for the open door. I want the specific answer to prayer, the “thus sayeth the Lord” moment, the talking donkey. It’s not so much that I’m unwilling to step out in faith; it’s simply that I want to know my step of faith is grounded in the Lord’s direction. The “open door” tends to be one of the things I look for. But is that always the right criteria?

When Queen Esther’s cousin and adopted father, Mordecai, informed her of a plot to kill all the Jews in the provinces of Persia, she felt overwhelmed with fear (Esther 4:4). Mordecai implored her to approach the king on behalf of her people, to save the Jews from annihilation. Esther explained to Mordecai that she could only approach the king if he summoned her. Approaching the king without having first been summoned, even as the queen, was grounds for the death penalty. If the king happened to extend grace, he would do so by extending his golden scepter, but Esther wouldn’t know this until after she’d put her life on the line.

Is a closed door really a closed door?

Putting my life on the line is precisely what I would consider a closed door. But Mordecai responded, “Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14.) Now see, this is another problem for me. When stepping out in faith, I’m typically looking for something a little more rock solid than who knows? Furthermore, Esther responded to Mordecai’s plea by saying that she would approach the king and “If I perish, I perish.” Statements like who knows and if I perish, I perish don’t exactly have a ring of guarantee to them. But Esther and Mordecai’s faith wasn’t grounded in the open door scenario. Something else was present.

Esther and Mordecai agreed to fast and pray for three days (prayer is not actually mentioned but implied) with their Jewish communities before she approached the king. We don’t have the specifics of what they prayed for, but don’t we know that one of them was, “Lord, prompt the king to summon Esther! Lord, it’s been over 30 days since she’s been summoned. Move on his heart to call her to his throne so her life won’t be at risk!” Could Esther herself have prayed something like, “Lord, if the king summons me, then I’ll know for sure it’s an open door and I’ll ask the king to spare the Jews!”?

We don’t know for sure, but I have to believe those three days included many prayers for the king to summon Esther. For God to open a door.

When do you knock on a closed door?

But on the third day, there was only silence. No summons. No invitation. No open door.

And what did Esther do? She got dressed. She did that mundane thing we all have to do. Put our clothes on for the day. Then she stood in the courtyard of the king’s palace and faced both her greatest fears and greatest hope. The king extended his golden scepter toward her. She had found favor in his eyes. She would not perish in that moment.

God had opened a door but not before Esther went knocking on it.

God had opened a door but not before Esther went knocking on it.Click To Tweet

When we knock and God opens

As I pondered Esther and Mordecai’s truly remarkable faith I had to ask myself, what was it based on? It certainly wasn’t based on God opening a miraculous door ahead of time safe within the reaches of their comfort zone. It wasn’t even based on a supernatural dream, a prophetic word, or an angel whose first words are typically “do not fear” after they’ve scared everyone to death—this would have been solid Old Testament fare to go on. But Esther didn’t have to wait for an open door or a specific word because she already knew God’s revealed will.

God had already revealed Himself as the personal God of the Jews, their Deliverer, Redeemer, and Rock. Esther knew God’s heart for His people. He’d been revealing it since Abraham. True, Esther didn’t have a guarantee on her life or how exactly this would play out, but she could step out on some pretty incredible history of God acting on behalf of His people. The combination of His unmatched strength and the Jews’ chosen-ness wasn’t a specific guarantee for her personal preferences but it was a solid rock to step out on. Simply put, Esther didn’t have to wait for an open door because God had already revealed His will.

I couldn’t help but ask myself, how much more do we as New Testament believers know the revealed will of God through Jesus? He’s told us through His Word what He cares about: The poor, the lost, the sick, the down-and-outers, the up-and-outers, those on the fringes of society. He cares about people! He cares about His Gospel being proclaimed. He cares about the rule of His Kingdom coming on earth. He cares about our relationships, our love for one another, His church—oh, He cares about His church of which He is the Head. He cares about the friends and families He blesses us with and entrusts to us.

Not only has Jesus revealed the things He cares about, but He’s also told us what to do: Share the good news of the Gospel; make disciples; lay our lives down for one another; store up treasure in heaven and don’t live for the temporal; overflow with joy in Him; pray without ceasing; be generous; love each other with the love of Christ; open our homes to those who need a place to stay; be hospitable; forgive one another; serve one another; be filled with the Holy Spirit; go and tell all about Him…

And sometimes, even knowing all of this, I wait and wait and wait to step out because I’m waiting for Him to open a door. And I wonder if all that is really a super spiritual sounding EXCUSE, in Jesus’ Name. Certainly I believe in God opening doors—we see that exact phrase used in the New Testament. But what Esther taught me is that too often we use this concept as the necessary pre-cursor to doing anything at all, rather than being obedient to what God already told us to do.

I believe that God still specifically directs our steps, I believe He still acts supernaturally, I believe He still calls certain people for certain things, I believe that He still flings doors wide open. I also believe the author of Hebrews’ words that in the former days God spoke at different times and in different ways, but today He has spoken through His Son, Jesus. And if we know who Jesus is, what He cares about, and what He’s told us to do, well then, that is the open door. More specifically—and He said it Himself—He is the door. (John 10:9.)

If we know who Jesus is, what He cares about, and what He’s told us to do, well then, that is the open door.Click To Tweet

What has He asked you to do through the revealed will of His word? What are you waiting for? Maybe the door is already open and God is waiting for us to put our clothes on, stand to face the task ahead, and turn the knob.

X